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Gertrude Taft papers

Identifier: IWA0843

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Scope and Contents

The Gertrude Taft papers date from 1908 to 1926 and measure 4.4 linear feet. The papers are arranged in two series: Correspondence and Biographical. There are a few photographs interspersed with the correspondence; most of the photographs are in the Photographs folder and in the Memory Book.

The Biographical series includes the Blockhead Boomerang, a humorous newsletter written by Gertrude Taft and friends in 1911. Also included are ephemera from Taft's college days, including her appointment book and State University of Iowa (SUI) publications, and a Miscellaneous folder with lists of college expenses. Among the items in the memory book are Valentine's Day cards and dance cards from 1911-1915. An April 26, 1915 letter mentions a visit to the University by Helen Keller.

The Correspondence series is arranged chronologically and consists of letters to and from Gertrude Taft and her parents, brother, and friends from home in Humboldt, Iowa and from her college days at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) in Iowa City. The letters often contain descriptions of food and fashions. The two 1914 Sorority Question folders concern Gertrude Taft's offer of induction into the Delta Zeta sorority and the ensuing correspondence about it with her family, who opposed her joining a sorority because they believed that it an undemocratic system that promoted a class aristocracy and discriminated against less well-to-do students. Gertrude agreed with them and declined to join despite the pleas of her friends in the sorority, who wrote to her parents to try and convince them to change their minds. Some of the correspondence describes the flu quarantine in 1918 and World War I as experienced by Taft and her friends in the Midwest and California. The Camp Dodge folder consists of letters written in 1918 by Gertrude's brother Thurlow T. Taft from Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa. The Titanic folder contains a letter from Thurlow Taft which describes his reaction and thoughts on the 1912 disaster.


  • Creation: 1908-1926


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Gertrude Helen Taft was born in 1892 in Humboldt, Iowa, the town her grandfather founded, to William Taft, an attorney, and Alice Tibbetts Taft. She had one older brother, Thurlow, who served as a Sergeant in WWI, before becoming a lawyer and Superior Court judge in Santa Monica, California. The siblings both attended the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa). Following her graduation in 1915, Taft briefly taught mathematics in Spencer, Iowa before attending Bradley Polytechnic Institute in Peoria, Illinois, where she she studied Mechanical Drawing. She then taught in Marion, Iowa.

In 1920, she returned to Humboldt, initially working for her father and later becoming a bookkeeper for the Humboldt Gravel and Tile Company. Taft later moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she served as Director of Religious Education at The First Unitarian Church School. While in Cleveland, Taft attended graduate classes at the Women's College, Western Reserve University. She also served as a Girl Scout Troop leader and volunteer manager for The Triangle Club, a teen social club. She later worked for the Unitarian Church in Boston. Gertrude Taft died in 1948.


4.50 Linear Feet

Photographs in Box 1 and scattered. boxes

Language of Materials



Humboldt, Iowa, native who taught high school in Iowa and worked for the Unitarian Church in Cleveland and Boston.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1292) were donated by Patricia Baker in 2013.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)